'The Foundation for an Emotional Connection With Fans and Future Corporate Partners'

Photo Courtesy:   Dave Parker

Photo Courtesy: Dave Parker

With more than 20 years of experience building athlete brands, Dave Parker is a former college and professional athlete, and the founder of Noble Sports Group.

He has worked with high-profile athletes in various sports on athlete brand strategy, and has built corporate partnerships in varied industries and leagues, such as MLB, the PGA Tour, the NFL and NASCAR.

Dave, what are you most excited about today?

Today, more than ever, athletes have an opportunity to use their influence to build brands that can transcend sports. We are passionate about helping athletes build a plan that differentiates them from their competition, by delivering advice from a place of substance and experience.

We strive to build unique partnerships with companies like MLB Advanced Media (mlb.com), which have enabled us to stay ahead of the branding curve in the structure of social media and technology platforms, as well as interactions with their corporate partners.

How does Dave define an epic athlete brand?

An epic athlete brand has the ability to tell a compelling story that amplifies the vision, values and character an athlete brand represents. However this story is defined, it becomes the foundation for an emotional connection with fans and future corporate partners.

The more relevant, the more engaging and the more authentic those connections can be, the more you give your fans and your potential fans reasons to care.

What's your favorite athlete brand at the moment, and why?

Obviously, JuJu Smith-Schuster, J.J. Watt and Tim Tebow come to mind, but I am intrigued by athlete brands like Dallas Cowboys defensive end Lewis Neal. He is not yet a star, but is building brand equity in ownership of HyperSpace Security, a cyber security firm, as well as a financial investment firm.

Athletes have a window of influence in college, or early in their professional careers, to build brand equity in areas outside of sports, which will extend their relevance.

When you look across the athlete brand landscape, what's the one thing you think more athletes should be doing?

It is important for athletes to build ownership of their intellectual property that is associated with their brand, which includes digital media assets. Athletes need to understand that perception is reality and always be proactive, not reactive, in building their brands. Words and actions are important.

What’s your best advice for athletes who want to kickstart their personal brands?

There are a plethora of "experts" in the area of athlete brand marketing, and athletes should be diligent in checking the veracity of their claims. Look for advisors who have varied experiences in working with athletes — not just star athletes — and have been part of the brand building process from the beginning of an athlete’s career.

Most importantly, be teachable and open to learning from advisors who have real-world experiences, as well as your own strengths and weaknesses. Building a brand plan is a constantly evolving process and your plan should help maximize your influence as an athlete.

What’s the number-one tool you’re using right now?

We currently use Adobe Spark and Canva to create graphics and visual stories.

Based on your knowledge and expertise, what's the future of athlete branding and marketing?

Seemingly, we are in a “Wild Wild West” era of athlete brand marketing, with so many opinions and advice from individuals on social media, books, podcasts, et cetera.

Athletes need to be diligent in vetting brand advisors and look for professionals or agencies that put forth genuine effort to help athletes build a brand plan from a place of experience. Substance is greater than form.

Also, athletes will continue to use their influence on social platforms to bring attention to causes for those who don’t have a voice.